Re: A question about how votes are cast (protecting against multiple sheets of paper)

From: Douglas W. Jones <jones_at_cs_dot_uiowa_dot_edu>
Date: Mon Jan 19 2004 - 09:06:41 CST

On Jan 18, 2004, at 11:31 PM, Karl Auerbach wrote:

> A second question that I have concerns our use of the word
> "ballot" - In the OVC system the ballot is the paper that
> contains the choices the voter made.

The use of the term ballot to refer to the piece of paper containing
the choices the voter has made would seem to me to be close to the
normative use. Technically, the paper pages on the front of the
Votomatic machine constitute the ballot label, while the punched card
itself, containing the record of the voter's selections, is the ballot.
The constitutional use of the term (in the context of the electoral
college) also refers to a slip of paper on which the voter (elector,
in this case) writes the names of the candidates he is voting for.

Only in the context of mechanical lever voting machines and their
analog, the direct recording electronic voting machine, does the term
ballot become problematic. The term ballot label has been used for
the sheet of paper or strips of paper used to label the levers on a
mechanical voting machine; on such a machine, in a serious technical
sense, there is no actual ballot -- the machine retains no record
of the voter's intent other than by incrementing a counter behind the
lever. In a direct recording electronic voting machine, FEC/NASED
standard terminology refers to an electronic ballot image as the
record of one voter's candidate selection.

So, I see nothing non-normative about calling the slip of paper a
ballot. If it is the legal record of a voter's intent that should
be counted in the event of a contested election, then it is, from a
strictly legal perspective, the ballot, and there's no problem
calling it that.

> This seems sufficiently dissonant from other uses of the term
> "ballot", including that word in the US Constitution, that we may want
> to
> find a differnt, less overloaded word, to act as the noun for the paper
> produced by the OVC system????

Quite frankly, I don't see how it is so distinct from other
uses of the term. It seems perfectly in keeping with the classical
usage. The only problem I can see is the usage that came with the
introduction of the Australian ballot, where you talk about "getting
your candidate's name on the ballot" or you talk about "ballot access"
or about printing the ballot in the paper before the election. Our
ballots aren't Australian ballots.

If there is a need to use a different term, we can go back
to the 19th century and use the word ticket. As in, "he voted the
straight party ticket." Back then, parties distributed "straight party
tickets" to the voters, and voters had the option of using a party
ticket, writing out their own ticket, long hand, on their own paper,
or voting a party ticket with names they didn't like struck out.
Technically, these tickets were ballots, but the slang term ticket
is still with us a century later, so it obviously has a strong
resonance.

                        Doug Jones
                        jones@cs.uiowa.edu
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Received on Mon Jan 10 00:48:11 2005

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